Logging in. Linking In. Checking in. Pinning. Posting. For a social media marketer, it can be oh-so-exhausting. But, like a good social media doobie, you do it every day: Leverage your social media toolbox to bring to life compelling brand stories and perspective.
At times, the experience can seem daunting and disjointed for both the content marketer and the brand ambassador. Sure, we all have stories to tell, but how do we find the most relevant content and ensure that you are telling a cohesive story?
Fortunately, we’ve found a few nifty new tools that aggregate your content from multiple networks, creating portals in the cloud that help you curate the best content and potentially cut through the never-ending stream of status updates. While these platforms will certainly evolve as they mature, picking a favorite requires a bit of trial and error to determine the interface and approach that’s most appropriate for your brand. Our three favorites (in order of preference) are:
1. Storify puts the social web into context by curating the best story elements and content to create an embeddable, dynamic and shareable story highlighting the best tweets, photos, RSS feeds and videos about a particular subject. Say bye-bye to the time-consuming chore of cutting and pasting text and links and downloading and re-uploading photos. Instead, simply drag and drop the content that best brings your story to life. Storify initially took off with journalists who used the tool to quickly identify social media activity related to their news and then “storify” the most relevant findings. For marketers, storify enables you to engage authentically and in real time with industry news and real-world discussions relating to your product, brand or industry. Case in point: Avis’ customer appreciation campaign.
2. Glossi promises to create beautiful, living magazines about you. Think of it as a web-based version of Flipboard, only instead of creating magazines of your favorite content, it brings together in one place your activity on five social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram and Tumblr). Each profile features a profile image, a Facebook-like cover background and immediately below, your shared music, videos, tweets, posts, check-ins and links. It’s easy to reorganize (or even delete) your featured content. Right now, it’s in its infancy (you can request an invite to the beta), but given its ease-of-use, it will likely be embraced by social influencers and brands in the months to come. You heard about it here first! Case in point: Yoko Ono’s Glossi.
3. RebelMouse, like Glossi, is also new to the scene and, for now, by invitation only. Started by Huffington Post’s former CTO, Paul Berry, the RebelMouse platform consists of a personal bulletin board à la Pinterest that is organized by headlines with stories underneath. Right now, you can only aggregate your Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest feeds. Tumblr and Instagram are coming soon. Case in point: FastCompany’s RebelMouse page.
While all of these tools certainly help you aggregate your content across multiple networks, their true power lies in presenting it in creative, compelling new ways that are engaging to your advocates. In a single package, these services bring together the simplicity of Twitter, the visual engagement of Pinterest and the blogging capabilities of Tumblr. The rest is up to you: you’ll want to promote creatively and consistently as you would any of your brand’s social properties. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.” What say you? Will you be test driving any of these new content management tools?
A few years ago, engagement was the holy grail of marketing. Brands delivered interactive campaigns designed to stimulate action and interaction: Take a poll, share or upload a photo, join a “community,” create a video, and so on. Unfortunately, the outcome was a lack of true engagement; brands for the most part pushed “stuff” using a variety of social and digital channels. The latest shiny tools and apps were embedded in the campaigns and for a while people did react, but few actually engaged in a meaningful way.
Today, engagement has evolved to “brand advocacy,” the art of more continuous engagement through relationship building. Boston Consulting Group describes advocacy marketing as generating knowledge and positive opinion about your brand and products by engaging individuals and small groups in meaningful, direct, two-way communication. The intimate understanding of individual consumers or customers creates both affinity and advocacy; people recommend, share, provide feedback, defend and tell you when you need to do better. Marketers have known this for a while, but few have adopted a systematic or standardized approach.
In order to excel at advocacy, brands need to understand and define their target, and find the six to eight percent who are truly passionate and want to interact, share who they are, and ultimately endorse your brand and products. This is much harder than pushing “engagement” or seeding products and hoping for return on engagement. For years, brands have collected information and data about their customers, but for the most part have failed to truly use it to develop meaningful relationships.
Both the art and science of advocate identification and recruitment has evolved significantly over the past few years. Much work has been done in understanding their motivations, how to appropriately engage, what to ask of them and what to “give” them in return. Additionally, more brands than ever are interested in exploring a path to brand advocacy. Yet as we talk with brands, we’re befuddled by how many neglect this route. Some just don’t know how to get started, while others simply don’t think it’s worth the effort.
Research conducted by McKinsey should persuade those in both camps. It studied what motivates people along the decision journey, and word-of-mouth (WOM) was paramount. The study further found that having a robust “post-purchase” channel as part of the marketing cycle was key to finding and activating loyalists who will drive advocacy or WOM.
Our own work at ComBlu bears this out. We have helped many large, global brands identify, recruit and activate brand advocates, and then engage them over time. These brands got to know their advocates, and recognized the input they gave and the WOM that they spread. Productivity among this group is dependent upon segmenting advocates and understanding how to engage specific types for defined goals and purposes. For example, a very small percentage will actually create a video or write content for you. Yet, many engagement road maps focus almost exclusively on this type of activity. Not only does this waste resources, it restricts return motivation and can lead to stagnation. Yet, many people will curate content or share it, but few brands stimulate this “collector” behavior as part of the engagement strategy. Knowing what to ask, and who to ask to do very specific things is part of knowing them and respecting them.
ComBlu defines brand advocacy as the confluence of conversation, community and content. We sponsor a Content Council for brands and almost all of the members consider content to be a powerful engagement asset. Most brands though have not mapped content to the right point of the decision journey and continue to push vast amounts of content indiscriminately into the cloud. Few have stopped to think how to use advocates to amplify it. Fewer still know how to use their content as a stimulant for conversation. And, many still think of Facebook as their hub for brand advocacy.
Social measurement is starting to get more sophisticated and allows brands to better gauge the impact of their advocacy marketing or engagement campaigns, and use the insights they glean to calibrate programs. The really smart brands use social business intelligence to better know the needs, wants and quirks of their advocates. Without great, deep relationships with them, there is no brand advocacy.
Third annual study shows need for more and better community management
Social marketers are getting more focused and sophisticated in how they are integrating community into their owned digital assets. While this is a great headline for the results of ComBlu’s third annual, “State of Online Branded Communities” Report, it is tempered by an overall lack of growth in the adoption of community best practices since last year’s study.
Our study started three years ago when we could not find any data about community experience from the members’ perspective. Most research focuses on brands self-reporting many things: social marketing budget in dollars and as a percentage of overall marketing spend, growth of that same budget year over year, who “owns” social inside the organization, the split between social business and social enablement, and so on. We also found lots of opinion and research about online community best practices, but again, not how those practices impact engagement levels, stimulate return visits or generate a robust community experience.
So, we created a best practices scorecard that overlaid multiple studies on the topic and found the core practices across multiple sources. Then, we joined communities and scored our experiences against the scorecard. This year, our scorers joined 251 communities representing 92 companies across 15 industries. While this is a herculean task, it has become a labor of love. Our major goal is to gain firsthand experience of how these communities engage and interact with their members.
Specifically, the research assesses the brands’ effectiveness in:
The Good News
Lots of Great Info
Once again, the report contains tons of great information, insights and data. The industry section is especially jam packed this year, with more analysis of the industry specific data.
Download the report and leave your comments. We’re interested in hearing what you think and learning about your own experiences.
Part One: Who are advocates and why they matter.
Brand advocates are hot and trending—again. Conversation about brand advocates and their business value is buzzing, because we have more collective experience under our belts. Advocate programs are beyond the proof of concept stage. There are real metrics available to us that quantify the business impact that advocates yield. Maker’s Mark (and their ambassador program) is a great example of an early adopter that has been running an advocate program for years. Whirlpool and Mom Central launched a pilot program in July and recently presented the results at WOMM-U earlier this month. The risk finally outweighs the reward.
So what have we learned about this small but powerful group of brand fans? Our infographic helps visualize who advocates are and why they matter.
|Click to Download Full Infographic|
|First, the “who.” Advocates make up just six to eight percent of your customer base. But, remember you can do a lot with a few. A relatively small group of engaged advocates can have enormous impact on the business.Advocates can play multiple roles. Most importantly they are the new voice of the brand. They love and defend you, because you market with them and not to them.|
Be prepared to have a genuine relationship with your advocates. It will pay dividends.
Not all advocates are created equal. Your business mission will determine the right type of advocates to identify and recruit for your program. It is important to understand which advocate segments will activate for what program, and how to engage with them in a meaningful way.
Brand advocates play a starring role in sales, product innovation, customer care and market research. They are our content creators and amplifiers, recommendation engines, campaign accelerants and support agents. And, they generate serious impact. This is the “why!”
Brand advocates are the go to person for purchase advice from peers. Unless you have been living under a rock, everyone knows that today’s consumer trusts the recommendation of someone they don’t even know.
It is all about the social graph. You are not engaging with an individual—you are engaging with a network.
So now that we get the who and the why, let’s focus on the “how.” There is a lot to get your arms around, so it is important to take a process approach from the beginning.
First, start with your key business objectives and define the mission of your advocate. You need to know what you want them to do first.
Next, you need to identify the right type of advocate for that mission. Start by leveraging social listening tools like Sysomos to drive your recruitment—this will help you find passionate fans already creating and sharing content outside of your own social ecosystem. Down the road, listening will also inform your engagement, messaging and content strategies.
You will also want to tap into your owned assets—best practice is to fish in your own pond. How will you use your existing infrastructure to reach loyal customers?
Now, in order to identify the right advocate for the job, you need to qualify them based on key criteria, such as:
Over the next few months, we will tackle the rest of the process—advocate activation, engagement and measurement:
In those upcoming blogs, we’ll share some brand examples we think epitomize best practices in advocate deployment. In the meantime, if you have any great case studies or innovative brand advocate programs to share, please do!
My entire life I have been an Olympic Games junkie. No matter if it was the Summer or Winter Games, I found myself counting down the days until the opening ceremonies, and would then watch as much of the competitions, athlete personal interest stories, and news from the Games as I could fit in without causing serious concern among my friends and family (I don’t ordinarily watch much TV).
While waiting for the London opening ceremonies (July 27, BTW), I began looking into ways to be even more plugged in this year, and knew the impact of social media would be key. Olympic organizers have dubbed the London games the world’s “first social Games” and I was thrilled to learn that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) created an online hub for the “ultimate Olympic fan” (they mean me, right?).
The main purpose of this community is to strengthen the digital connection between fans and competitors. This is great, especially for star athletes in non-mainstream sports like Greco-Roman wrestling and modern pentathlon, or those sports you may only follow during the Olympics, like diving and fencing. Social media offers these athletes a way to connect with—and stay connected to—a fan base long after the games are over.
The Olympic Athlete’s Hub pulls together the verified social media feeds of 1,000+ current and former competitors, across a wide variety of sports. The community offers fans the ability to follow their favorite athletes, and to learn more about and connect with new athletes as they follow the game.
The hub also posts content directly from Facebook and Twitter accounts, and incorporates gamification. Fans can play “Game for the Games” and earn virtual medals, as well as real rewards (e.g., collectable pins, autographed T-shirts, etc.) when they follow athletes, watch videos, etc.
Just like women athletes, coverage of the Olympics has “come a long way, baby.” Take a look at this infographic published by the IOC showcasing the evolution of the coverage of the games. To my delight, this year it will be more sophisticated than ever before.
The Olympic Games have always brought the world together. Thanks to social media, this connection is stronger than ever before, and will continue long after the closing ceremonies.
I am already earning medals on the Olympic Athletes’ Hub as I wait for the Games to begin. And, I am happy that I can now make it look like I am online “working” and not just watching the games.
How much Olympic coverage do you plan to take in? What role will social media play? I’d love to hear and learn of any other fun Olympic-dedicated sites you plan to engage in.